novella- cont.

Bus Windows

           

The next morning I awake to the bald glow of fluorescent lights on my face. The magnetic ballasts flicker and drone like a moth song. The window still holds the dying thickness of night that unwillingly fades into the morning the way we all must fade from an age of rage into an age of reason. An image of you in your heavy double-breasted blazer, fastening the locks on your boots in clinks of metal against metal like little raindrops falling on tile.

            “Get up!” You kiss my neck and muss the covers from my body until I shiver to full consciousness. “We must leave now if we are to return in time for morning class.”

It is much too early. For a moment I consider protesting and rolling back into sleep. I yawn loudly while my mind sludges through the options. But it is too bright to fall asleep and my curiosity is getting the better of me so I sit up and stretch into long micro-fiber socks and a grey thermal. Within five minutes I am fully awake. As our austere forms walk, heads bent, toward the bus-stop, my mind sharpens itself, axe-like, on the coldness of the morning frost. A crack of the door, a red mouth and blackened irises come back to me from last night. A strange night, to be sure. I am hoping for some answers.

            “Where are we going?” I ask.

You merely smile in return and squint toward the approaching shape of the city bus. It screeches to a slowing halt. We climb on, flashing the mirror-eyed driver our passes.

 

The bus is hissing like a flat tire. Vibrating lights, backseat like horror story of two lovers

miles apart.

Lurches ahead, this great beast, and the liquors left over in my gut lurch, launching me forward

into a hollow time—

Only ten minutes passed since the empty bus is popped into a loony bin. Passengers, leather faced and old, drowsy, for their working day is beginning without desire. The sensitivity in everyone’s eyes!

A blueblack man turns to me and growls in his oilslick voice, “Hey, it’s not an easy livin’ makin’ insecticide and god knows it ain’t fun but it does keep the insects away.”

I smile wanly at him. For now my job is finding meaning in everything: milky moons and advertisement billboards, little baby wails and old pickup Fords, and I wonder how much living that’ll get me.

 

Steel cranes like praying mantises fold and unfold their sharp limbs as they build buildings. Bank buildings rise from the ground, so do investment buildings and buildings where sick people lie in metal cots, waiting to get well until they can, once again, push through the revolving doors of bank buildings and investment buildings and buildings where sick people lie in metal cots.

 

Windows like picture frames hold the strangest family portrait of strangers who drop fly-like

along.

novella- continued!

Clonic Mantra

 

You awake again in a shudder drenched in sweat. I am still thinking about the word “beautiful.” The bed is soaked with your perspiration and I wonder what could’ve disturbed your dreams.

            “Are you alright? You’re sweating a lot.”

            Your head moves slowly from side to side, mouth ajar. “Do you smell that?” you ask.

            I sniff but only smell the yeasty scent of your skin. “No, what do—”

You stand up in one swift motion and flip on the bathroom light and fan and shut the door. The lock clicks.

 

That moment when your limbs hit the floor like shampoo bottles falling on cold tub, violence erupting and I think that Welsh guy upstairs is clogging again and then I realize—

—frantically trying to pick the lock with tiny pins, walking in circles through piles of buried shirts and combat boots and hearing your muffled groans sob through the linoleum and I want to open your airways but I can’t see—

—a slice of your face under the door crack—

the fan whirring like a chopper—

—yellowish light flooding flashes of your red wet mouth,

elbows crooked—

—joints crammed into the cupboards—

while I whisper cheek to carpet:

you’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay.

 

You emerge through the door like you’ve been pulled out of an icy bath, blue eyes turned black. You look at me as if you’ve never seen me before.

            “Where am I?”

We lie down and hold each other under the itchy covers of our metal-framed futon while you gather the china shards of your memories back into a vessel.

            “In our apartment, Charles. You just had a seizure.”

Your face wrinkles into a child-like sorrow as you bury it in my chest.

            “I hate it. I hate it. I’ve hated it since I was six.”

            “I know, my love,” I say quietly, not knowing what else to say. Some ants crawl by dizzily on the whitewashed walls, illuminated by the moonlight. I stroke your hair as the refrigerator hums in the dark.

“Will you start taking your pills again?” I ask.

Sighing as you begin to sink into a dreamless sleep, you say,

“I don’t know. But tomorrow I need to show you something that you have never seen before.”

You fell while traipsing on logs

and slid through a hole in the air,

landed between sea and fog.

novella- contd.

Lamotrigine

 

When you were young, you saw specters in the air that froze you; your eyes glistened wetly. Were you scared?

Once in a swimming pool, you rotated to the left in a small circle and did not answer your uncle’s calls.

 

These ghosts soon shook you, took you by force into the densest night without a flashlight and thrust you into your own electrical storm. You could smell them coming and your skin whitened in fear.

 

Small cream-colored pills in the shape of a shield; such little fury things that make up your mornings and nights. At first you hid them from me, dry-swallowed them quickly like a lump in your throat while I brushed my teeth. But I came to know them well as we began to fall into the bleary pleasures of gin, of vodka, and we would crawl into bed tripping over books and I would remind you of those fury things and you would thank me, unwillingly I think, and swallow again. You are allowed these to keep your mind. To lose your mind is illegal even if you choose.

 

Three years and some months after that day in the library, the scorched land of Sudan burst again into the flames of civil war. Again the horsemen did ride with their red scarves blowing in the wind while black bodies piled up in the desert and the thirsty sand drank up their blood and tears. We protested this new genocide, a group of students selfcaged on the vast seminary lawn by chicken-wire. We vowed not to eat for a day. We carried buckets of granite with us when we stole inside the main building to use the toilet to imitate the arduous Darfurian trek for water. Inside the cage, we did as we pleased. While others played card games in the evening time, you and I connected our sleeping bags and undid our zippers. We fell asleep like that, hands down each other’s pants as if to keep them safe and warm. Only we awoke at dawn and crossed the fence together, huddled in our sleeping bags. The sky was a perfect rose, all clean. My mind raced, eyes buzzing like a thousand invisible bees. Our hunger was the last thing on our minds.

That was a month ago. You turned to me and said,

“I feel like sea mist, pale and inconsequential. For fourteen years I have existed as a tarnished penny. I would like to love you through the spider lightning now, fight through it myself. For you.”

You stopped taking your pills after that.

 

Strength is a noun

You are “quartz”

And I am “ pearl”.

novella- contnd.

A Prince

 

When I first spoke to you between the shelves of our high-school library, I thought you were foreign.

            “Are you Russian?”

“No,” you said, grinning. “I am from here. My parents are Dutch and German.”

“Then you must have grown up in a big city?” There seemed something too vertical and urban about the way your hair fell over your eyes.

“No,” you said, “I was born in a small hospital two miles away and have lived in this town all my life.”

Then how to explain all that you seem to know that others cannot see? You smiled your tiny-gapped smile and made a violent motion of smashing your head against something hard.

            “Foreign accent syndrome. It’s the only neurological oddity that can be called ‘chic’.”

I glanced at your blue eyes for a split second and quickly looked down at the marled carpet.

            “You remind me of Prince Myshkin,” I said.

            “Who is he?”

“Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, a character in a book I read a long time ago. He is kind and epileptic and incongruous—on the cover of my grandfather’s copy he has fair hair and blue eyes and a golden scruff just like you.”

We both breathed for a while. “I am epileptic,” you said.

“What? Really? No you’re not! That would be too strange!”

Why did I not believe you?

novella- cont.

Strange Matter

 

            “So I was thinking today, and follow me on this: don’t you think it could be true that like the tentative and unstable strange matter, there may exist highly reactive yet persuasive people who virally infect stable beings into strange beings like themselves?”  I throw the question at you while spreading margarine on artificially enriched wheat derivative bread.

            “Personality by infection? That’s a little absurd; humans are not mere matter. You’re disregarding the soul as if it were a piece of gristle.” Your dark brows furrow in mockreal exasperation.

            “I’m not disregarding the soul, for how can I act upon that which simply does not exist?” I ask. You scowl deeper at this and I laugh. “We’ve been here many times before, friend, and we’ll meet here again I’m sure.”

novella contd.

 Cement Cities

 

We live in a cement city. The cement buildings grow from the cement ground, and even the silver-green potted olive trees sway with a dull cement shine. Sometimes we look out the glassmetal windows of the seminary to see a pigeon flutter onto the sidewalk. Then only its greenish pink shining throat is visible through the grey.

 

When the giant mesh-speakers toll eight o’clock, I do not move to get up for dinner. Instead I wait by the window and watch the blue woolen flood of students pour through the doors of the three buildings. I look for your curly blonde head in the mass of dark blue coats and find you pushing through the door of the Metaphysics building toward the Ontological west wing where I sit and watch. I grab my coat and head out to you. You toss me a pack of cigarettes and kiss me tightly on the mouth. You smell like soap and laundry detergent and cigarettes. We walk past the cubic fountain that regulates the irrigation of the seminary orchard and head back to our apartment three streets over. Exhausted by the weight of education and the long trek up the three-story cement staircase, we enter our room, slip out of our coats, and eat a cold dinner of bread, fingerling potatoes and dry gin.

Novella- in pieces. Tune in!

Object/Subject

 

“Nothing can have value without being an object of utility.”

-Karl Marx

 

Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

-René Magritte

PART ONE

 

Beautiful

 

Clouds marble the grey night.

The electricity crackles through a wind-blown chink in the curtain.

The sky looks like the interior of a massive brain, spider lightning creating instant connections between swollen neurons. The earth is thinking.

You awake suddenly and turn to me, your eyes wide open. You look at me as if you have never seen me before.

               “Do you know that you’re beautiful?” you ask me.

I stare blankly. Soon your head sinks down onto the pillow and plunges back into sleep. And I feel a sense of longing.